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Pet shops

Prior to submitting an animal licence application, you must ensure you contact our Planning Department to obtain the relevant planning permissions for your business.

The Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018 (opens new window) came into force on 1 October 2018 and covers the selling of animals as pets. See also:

Selling animals as pets

The legislation defines it as selling animals as pets, or with a view to them being resold as pets later, in the course of a business. This includes keeping animals in the course of a business, with a view to them being sold or resold. To determine if you are a business, you will need to consider the 'business test'.

Pet sales business test

A business is defined in the legislation as an operator who:

  1. makes any sale by, or otherwise carries on, the activity with a view to making a profit, or
  2. earns any commission or fee from the activity.

In the 2016 Government Budget, an allowance was announced of £1,000 for trading income from April 2017. Anyone falling under this threshold would not need to be considered on the context of determining whether they are a business.

The Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) states that these conditions are not the exclusive factors to be considered, but are examples and other factors such as those listed in the badges of trade set out by the HMRC (opens new window) are also relevant. The guidance assists inspectors, but there is an element of judgement in deciding upon the business test. If you aren't sure if you're classed as a business, please email with the details of your business and we can help determine this.

Pet shop licensing

The following listed activities require a licence:

  • the import, distribution and sale of animals by a business
  • businesses registered with Companies House
  • businesses or individuals operating from domestic premises for commercial purposes (it should be noted that many may not be listed with Companies House)
  • premises that are open to members of the public or to other businesses where animals are available for purchase.

The following considerations assist in applying the business test when the 'selling animals as pets' licence applies:

  • the import, distribution and sale of animals by means of a fixed fee
  • the purchase of animals with the express intent to sell them on
  • where animals are bought and then re-advertised for sale or sold within a short period of time
  • the number, frequency and/or volume of sales - systematic and repeated transactions using the same means of advertising are likely to indicate a commercial activity
  • high volumes of animals sold or advertised for sale or high number of litters or progeny could indicate a business
  • low volumes of animals sold or advertised could indicate a business where high sales prices or large profit margins are involved
  • high range and variability in the animals traded. A wide variety of species or taxa being traded could indicate the commercial nature of the activity
  • high numbers of advertisements of animals for sale, including on classified websites, could indicate commercial behaviour, even where there is no actual sale taking place via the Internet. This could be high numbers of advertisements at any one time or over a short period of time, and/or regularly
  • advertising through a variety of sites, forums or media could indicate a commercial activity.


The following listed activities do not require a licence:

  • where the licensable activity of 'breeding dogs' applies
  • the infrequent sale of a small number of surplus offspring/excess stock by a private individual who breeds animals as a hobby, for pleasure, exhibition for prize, or for education, study or scientific advancement. For low value species that may produce large numbers of excess stock, consideration should be given to the value of the stock and the likelihood that the seller is making a profit
  • organised events where people meet to sell surplus animals they have bred, or animals that are surplus to their requirements, whether or not this is open to the public. Selling pet animals as a business from a market or stall is prohibited under Section 2 of the Pet Animals Act 1951
  • Aquacultural Production Businesses that are authorised under regulation 5(1) of the Aquatic Animal Health (England and Wales) Regulations 2009, and that are inspected by the Fish Health Inspectorate.

The following considerations assist in applying the business test when the 'selling animals as pets' licence does not apply:

  • the number, frequency and/or volume of sales - irregular transactions, low and/or irregular numbers of adverts/sales or low numbers/values of animals sold are likely to indicate the activity is not commercial in its nature
  • where an individual can demonstrate the activity is undertaken as a hobby or for education or scientific advancement, and that they are only selling surplus stock, without making a profit. This could be demonstrated by producing evidence such as:
    • reports or studies prepared by the individual in relation to the species kept, including self-published, published for scientific journals, published in the pet trade or hobby media, or demonstrable contributions to conservation projects
    • competition entry forms for the animals kept by the individual
    • registered membership of a club or society relevant to the animals kept by the individual.

Apply for a pet shop licence

Please note: payment must be made at the time of application. The compliance fees are paid after the inspection is completed and the length of the licence is determined. 

Please email us on if you have any questions with the application form or process.

Check a licence and rating

When choosing to buy a pet, ensure you choose a licensed establishment. Since October 2018, all animal welfare licence holders must clearly display their licence on their premises and display their name and licence number on any website they use. Licences also contains a star rating which the business has achieved. We recommend displaying the star rating on any website, but this is not a legal requirement.

If a licence number is not displayed, you can check if they are licensed by checking our online  or by sending the name and address of the seller to

Raise an animal licensing concern

If you have any concerns about premises in the South Holland area, please email with details of the premises. If urgent, please call 01775 761161. Clearly state your concerns and your reason for them. All matters of concern will be investigated and complaints are kept confidential.